My first reaction upon hearing that hundreds of leaders in the Southern Baptist church had sexually abused as many as 700 people in 400 churches, including victims as young as 3, was "how could they?" It was the same reaction I had when news of predatory priests in the
I have belonged to Southern Baptist churches in the past, so I know something about their proud "independent" status. Some critics have said it is the lack of a central authority in these churches that contributed to failed oversight. The
The reporting by the
One explanation for such behavior -- it's not the only one -- appeared in a 2018 article in Christianity Today magazine: "Most pastors have struggled with porn."
That's according to an online study of nearly 3,000 adults, teenagers and pastors by the
J.D. Greear, the president of the
There are at least two other considerations the denomination must address. It is likely that many abuse victims will not only leave their churches, as many Catholics have done, but possibly abandon their faith altogether. If this is what God allows, they might say, I want nothing to do with Him.
The other thought is a warning. While most people probably think they are above such sin, consider the words of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, whose diagnosis of the potential for evil is that it resides at some level in all of us and that we cannot say for certain what we would do given the circumstances: "The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? (Jeremiah 17:9, NLT)
Southern Baptist churches may wish to ponder and deliver a series of sermons on the meaning of these additional words from Jeremiah: "What sorrow awaits the leaders of my people -- the shepherds of my sheep -- for they have destroyed and scattered the very ones they were expected to care for, says the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:1, NLT).
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